Co-pays and No-pays

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The price of prescription drugs has long been a contentious topic in the United States. Popular outrage and demands for more affordable drugs have led, in recent years, to Medicare Part D, state-based drug importation programs, and a variety of assistance programs from pharmaceutical companies. Exactly what counts as “affordable” varies, of course, from person to person. But as a recent study shows, price can has a significant effect on whether someone chooses to take a drug, even if it has already been prescribed.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, tracked prescriptions ordered through CVS Caremark, the pharmacy chain and pharmacy benefits manager, from July through September 2008. During this period, 10.3 million prescriptions were filled for 5.3 million people with an average age of 47; 60% were women. The average family income in neighborhoods serviced by these pharmacies was $61,762.

According to a HealthDay article on the study, 3.27% of prescriptions were abandoned over the course of the study. Cost was the biggest factor in whether a prescription was picked up; a co-pay over $50 made a drug 4.5 times more likely to be abandoned at the counter. In contrast, drugs with a co-pay less than $10 were abandoned only 1.4% of the time. Cold, cough, allergy, asthma, and skin medications were most likely to be abandoned. Insulin was abandoned 2.2% of the time. Electronically delivered prescriptions were 64% more likely to be abandoned than hand-delivered ones.

Have you ever intentionally abandoned a prescription? If so, was cost a major factor in your decision? What other factors did you consider? Have you ever discussed less expensive drug alternatives with your doctor? Did this end up saving you money? Leave a comment below!

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